Recess was cancelled in about a dozen school districts across B.C., as the province’s 41,000 public-school teachers started limited job action.
Wednesday morning began with members of the BC Teachers’ Federation taking Stage 1 administrative action, refusing, in part, to supervise students outside regular class hours.
Job action wasn’t supposed to affect students, but school districts from Prince Rupert to the Okanagan were soon cancelling the 15-minute break – the exact number varying between nine and 12 by the end of day, according to the Ministry of Education and the union.
“We think that’s, you know, a very unnecessary and inappropriate step,” said Jim Iker, federation president.
He said some of the school districts made the decision without even talking to the local teachers’ union about supervision schedules.
Iker said the districts didn’t even try to find coverage for recess but cancelled it because it’s inconvenient for principals and management.
“We knew that the employer organization would try to do some kind of either punitive or retaliatory actions, and it’s unfortunate that they’ve taken this one that effects students because we’ve tried very hard in this first Stage 1, low-level job action not to affect students or parents in any way,” he said.
Education Minister Peter Fassbender said each school district has to make decisions based on its own unique circumstances.
“We absolutely don’t make those decisions in the ministry,” said Fassbender when asked if the government directed districts to take the action. “That is a district by district decision.”
The teachers’ contract expired last June, and the outstanding issues include wages and class size and composition.
The union announced March 6 that 26,051 teachers, or 89 per cent of those who cast ballots, voted in favour of taking job action during a three-day provincewide vote.
Iker said April 17 that under the first stage of job action teachers wouldn’t attend meetings with management, other than health and safety talks, or supervise students outside regular class hours.
He said they wouldn’t provide or receive printed, written or electronic communications from administrators or be at work more than an hour before or after classes.
Iker also said there would be no immediate disruption to students.
Both sides were back at the bargaining table Wednesday morning, and upcoming talks are scheduled.